The American Library Association reports that 2022 saw more attempts to have books removed from schools and public libraries than in any prior year this century—indeed, it documented nearly twice as many attempted bans in 2022 than in 2021. Notably, the common thread in these aggressive efforts is the subject that binds the most-challenged titles: Most of them address themes of LGBT+ identity or gender expression. On our latest episode of the Smithsonian magazine podcast “There’s More to That,” I talk with journalist Colleen Connolly about Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan, the first book ever to be suppressed in North America. What did the Puritans find so threatening about it, and how has this book echoed through subsequent centuries? Then I’m joined by Carla Hayden, the librarian of Congress, for a wide-ranging conversation about the history of book bans in the United States, how a resurgent wave of book bans in many states differs from those of prior eras and why organized attempts to prevent specific people from reading specific books usually fail.
The debate about the best way to help children learn to read goes back more than 100 years, but an overwhelming body of data has shown the benefit of having kids sound out letters and words.
One of the largest analyses of such studies is a 2000 report by the National Reading Panel, which found that phonemic-awareness instruction helps kids learn to read and boosts comprehension, while teaching systematic phonics “makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than alternative programs providing unsystematic or no phonics instruction.”
President George W. Bush used the report as the foundation for his own reading initiative, which stressed phonics for early readers.
Even that report left the door open for proponents of balanced literacy, noting that phonics “should be integrated with other reading instruction to create a balanced reading program.”
Plenty of educators listened to this part loudly — despite the fact that those advocating for more phonics were never saying phonics only. “When I started on this journey, I was like, Phonics? That’s what George Bush wanted. Phonics? That’s what happens in red states,” says Danielle, a teacher in New York who, like many of the two dozen people interviewed for this article, requested we use her first name out of concern for professional consequences.
There’s a book that sits on a shelf in my room that routinely snags my attention and fills me with the exact dread of accidentally making eye contact with an ex at a crowded party. Look away! my brain screams. But it’s too late. Regret, shame and annoyance flood in, and I am once more in a silent standoff with that book I keep meaning to read and never do.
It’s not long or a classic, and it’s certainly not the only book I own and haven’t finished. But something about the spine always catches my eye, reminding me again and again (and again and again) of broken promises and literary shortcomings. One day, surely, I will finally pick up Z.Z. Packer’s “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.” Right?
Reading is fundamental. And so is copyright. No, really — check Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.
As is usually the case, things get interesting when fundamental goods bash heads in the courtroom. This time, you’ll likely see a familiar name in the complaint if you’ve enrolled in college and been a little short on cash any time within the last 20 years or so.
A federal judge in Manhattan, New York City, has granted summary judgment to four publishers that sued the nonprofit Internet Archive for scanning copyrighted books and lending them out in digital form. U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled March 24 that the archive’s program constituted copyright infringement, and its digital lending “remains squarely beyond fair use.”
Sure, we’re a website about books, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get in on the Oscars fun, too. (Exhibit A: If they gave Oscars to books, our 2022 nominees.) And while there are few adaptations in this year’s lineup, we’ll still be tuning in on Sunday to celebrate storytelling, judge the Academy’s taste, and perhaps witness some live drama. In the meantime, we’re recommending the books and films you should read and watch next for each Best Picture contender. Follow along with us on Twitter on Sunday at 8 pm ET!
Serious book lovers share their strategies for displaying their collections and keeping all those titles from taking over
By Rosa Cartagena, March 3, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST
Here’s a riddle for you: When a book editor and political science professor downsize from a six-bedroom house in the suburbs to a 900-square-foot Manhattan apartment, how many books will they have to get rid of?
For Matthew Budman (the editor) and his wife, Cristina Beltrán (the professor), the answer was a staggering 12,000.
“We had, you know, giant yard sales, and we had people carting off thousands of books,” says Budman, author of “Book Collecting Now: The Value of Print in a Digital Age.”
The transition was tough, but he says it allowed him to recognize that quantity isn’t everything. Now, he keeps roughly 3,000 titles at home (plus thousands more in storage).